Having received some comments from a descendent of Al-Saifa of A’akkar (accused in school history books of being traitors) on the previous editorial in issue no. 57 “Saints, Traitors, Villains, and Fools with Two Airports”, a further examination is required.

In January 2007, we had a leader that Lebanon may soon have two presidents, two parliaments and two prime ministers, so why not two airports? Having seen that “Hariri International Airport” can be easily closed, (like what happened on January 23, 2007), a good ‘planner’ will make sure that an alternative is available.

“René Mouawad International Airport”, is almost ready and the planes can be easily diverted. In the future, as cantonization becomes more probable and alliances shift, a third airport might be called for.

What does this have to do with current fights and debates about democracy, peace, “Shia’a” and “Sunni”?

As always, ideologies are a cover up, a decoy and a cause that people live and die by and for. Before and after World War I, Pan-Arabism and independence were convenient banners to fight the Ottomans and insure that minorities run to the “West” for protection. The “ideological wars” went on. In order to fight communism, we sometimes resorted to the “Arab Nation” and at other times to “Islam”.

Today, our leaders are hiding behind banners of “Freedom, Sovereignty and Independence” on one side and “Arabism, Dignity and Accountability” on the other side. 

Friends, enemies, crises and wars were and still are made under those banners.

During World War I, T.E. Lawrence befriended King Faisal I to oust the Ottomans, blew up the Hijaz railway and participated in paving the way for British and French dominance in the region. Consequently, coups d’états were launched in the region starting with Husni Al-Zaim, Jamal Abdel Nasser to Abdel Karim Qasim and the Ba’ath Party in Syria and Iraq to Libya and Sudan. The leaders of the Arab Revolt and their descendents were butchered mercilessly.

In the meantime, Sykes-Picot Agreement (with modification) and Balfour Declaration were implemented and are perhaps yet to achieve their full potential, while ‘we the people’ of the region, were fighting each other and our leaders were studiously abiding by the instructions of external forces.

Even when T.E. Lawrence had something to say on Iraq against his government, his allies in the region were praising Great Britain.

“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Bagdad communiqués are belated, insincere, and incomplete. A recent proclamation about autonomy circulated with unction from Bagdad.

We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. How far will the killing of ten thousand villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil? How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of a form of colonial administration, which can benefit no body but its administrators?”

Even when T.E. Lawrence expressed his doubts about Sykes-Picot geographical rationales, his allies were singing praise and queuing for positions in the newly founded states.

“Actually it not only seriously compromises the political future of the Arab Provinces, but also seriously jeopardizes the peace of the Near and Middle East and will result in serious local disorder which all agree, will spread to Kurdistan, Mesopotamia and Palestine, and perhaps to the entire Moslem world”.

What does all of this have to do with airports, trains, “Sunni” and “Shia’a”?

All the governments since T.E. Lawrence have abided by his legacy; they did neither restore the Hijaz railway nor attempted to undo his work. We can lecture as much as we like about the “Arab Nation” but never attempt to have a simple railway working again. Now we will claim success that “René Mouawad Airport” will be operational soon, but no railway, not even between Tripoli and Beirut.

Just in case a railway is built, T.E. Lawrence has written a manual about how to demolish it from Ras Ba’albeck to the Arabian Desert.

“I therefore went west to Ras Baalbek on June 10th and dynamited a small plate girder there.

The effect on the traffic was of course very slight but the Metowila [Shia’a] of Baalbek were most excited and it was to arouse them that I did it. The noise of dynamite explosions we find everywhere the most effective propagandist measure possible.

It was still necessary for us to cut the railway between Deraa and Amman.

After long experiment, we found this the cheapest and most destructive demolition for a line with steel sleepers [Tulip System]”.

Why all those wars and why the “Sunni”-“Shia’a” schism now? Apparently, T.E. Lawrence had his eyes on the “Shia’a” [Metowila] long before Mr. Bush invaded Iraq. The “Shia’a” of Ras Ba’albeck were happy that an “Inglizi” was liberating them from the tyranny of Turkey. 

T.E. Lawrence of Scotland, of England, of North Wales of Westmeath of Arabia of Dorset later apologized for many promises he made. Apparently, he was duped by his government.

“Lawrence had written that he had been led to believe that the British Government meant to live up to its promises to the Arabs, and that it was because of this belief he had encouraged the Arabs. He wished to inform the Arabs and the British public that he regretted what he had done because the government evidently had no intention of living up to the promise it had authorized him to make to the Arabs”.

Promises are easily made and broken. Men of substance will learn from history but what can hollow men do, except repeat with T.S. Elliot:

We are Hollow men

We are stuffed men

Leaning together

Head piece filled with straw. Alas!

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the nations

And the act

Falls the Shadow

King Faisal I, descendent of the Prophet, the leader of the Arab Revolt and the signatory on an agreement with Chaim Weizmann for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, was left wandering in a hotel in Paris on 18 January 1919 at 2 a.m. T.E. Lawrence pleaded Faisal’s case to Balfour, who said that he “simply forgot” to invite him to the meeting. The Paris Peace Conference gathered victorious nations but not pity zu’ama. The vacuum created by inapt Arab regimes depending on the West to survive is now being filled by Turkey, Israel and Iran.

A government, unwilling or unable to connect the “Sunni” of A’akkar with the “Shia’a” of Sour by a railway, what use would it have for two airports? Faisal, Jamal Pasha, Saddam Hussein, Bush and Ahmadinajad have the answer, while both our “pro-government and opposition leaders” are yet to learn from history. Soon the country will be in worse turmoil and they will all be left in the lobby of a hotel or at a train station where there is no train.

Citations in Italic from

The Letters of T.E. Lawrence of Arabia

David Garnett (ed.) 1938


Jawad N. Adra